Moab, the Green River, and Canoes (Part Two)

Saturday, September 26. A clear, cool morning, and a perfect way to start a 6-day paddle on the Green River. The plan was to launch at Mineral Bottom and float/paddle about 52 miles down to The Confluence (so named because that’s where the Green meets the Colorado) over the next almost-week. We had been told to be at Tag-A-Long by 8 AM; since our motel was literally right next door, we had no problem with that.

There was the usual briefing about the “rules of the road,” they took our money, we all signed our lives away – or at least agreed not to sue them if something happened – and loaded up the bus and trailer for the ride from Moab to Mineral Bottom.


There was another group launching that day, so we all pitched in to help load the gear in the bus and trailer and then load the canoes on the racks. With a total of 9 people and 5 canoes, it was pretty full! As we made small talk while loading the gear, we learned that the other group was also being picked up on the same day we were, so we knew we’d see them at least once more before getting back to Moab. It developed that they had a slightly different plan for the river than we had, and after the first 5 miles, we never saw them again until we were all on board the jet boat for the return trip.

But I ramble.

We left Moab around 9, I think, and headed toward Mineral Bottom. We eventually came to this vantage point above the river:


Everyone got out to stretch while our driver checked the trailer and bus for any problems. I’ve ridden down this road a half-dozen times, and it always seems like a crapshoot whether we’ll get to the bottom in the right number of pieces – but somehow we always do! It’s about 1500 vertical feet from where we are down to the river, and that drop mostly happens RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU in the picture! The road begins the descent to the right, switches back to the left (in the bottom of the photo), then switches back around again to the right, hugs the cliffside, and finally ends up as that narrow reddish-brown ribbon in the distance (just above the picture’s center). The driver told us he has had the occasional passenger decide to walk down, even though it’s about a mile or so. Today’s group was brave enough to endure the bus ride. Here’s another shot of the switchbacks:


Once we reached the bottom, of course, our first priority was to unload the bus and trailer, and figure out how to pack the canoes for the trip. We were interrupted by some BASE jumpers parachuting from the top of the cliffs we had just driven down, as well as a bush plane that landed on a dirt airstrip (we assumed it was there to retrieve the jumpers). These proved to be just two of several “firsts” I experienced on this trip!


Once we got our gear loaded, we posed for the obligatory “last known photo,” after which we launched the canoes and pushed off for a leisurely paddle down the Green River.

MISSING: Three carefree adults. Last seen at Mineral Bottom along the Green River, Utah.

MISSING: Three carefree adults. Last seen at Mineral Bottom along the Green River, Utah.

Our first overnight stop would be at Fort Bottom, which is at Mile 41, meaning we had an 11-mile paddle today. With the current helping us along at 1 – 2 mph, we really didn’t have to work too hard to get to Fort Bottom by dinnertime. We stopped for a leisurely lunch on a mud-and-rock bar we found, and then spent the afternoon watching the absolutely gorgeous scenery float by. Every view is different, and each seems better than the last. Sometimes I wish I could just run a 24-hour video – or maybe just a nonstop video of the actual river travel. (I suppose there isn’t much value to a video of darkness when everyone is sleeping, unless it happens to catch an intruder of some kind in camp.) So here are a couple of photos of our first day’s paddle:

Sometimes the river bottom gets too close to the surface!

Sometimes the river bottom gets too close to the surface!

Wind and water erosion makes amazing shapes in the rock.

Wind and water erosion makes amazing shapes in the rock.

At about the day’s halfway mark we passed this sign welcoming us to Canyonlands National Park. We wouldn’t leave the park until we were well on the way back to Moab in the jet boat, several days hence.


We ended the day’s paddle at a sandbar at Fort Bottom. The first day’s dinner, by tradition, is always sumptuous – perhaps as a reminder of what we’re leaving behind in “civilization” – and this year was no exception, with steak and salad on the menu. I took this shot of the charcoal chimney doing its thing:


After dinner, cleanup, and camp setup, we got to kick back and *really* relax, with a campfire (in a fire pan, of course!) and an almost-full moon.

Firelight and moonlight were the only illumination.

Firelight and moonlight were the only illumination.

Moonrise over the canyon rim

Moonrise over the canyon rim

Tomorrow we’ll learn *why* Fort Bottom is so named. In the meantime, enjoy the quietude and peacefulness. If you want to see all my photos from this trip, go here.

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